What Are Your Toughest PR Challenges?

I just finished an interesting article by Mickie Kennedy in PR Daily discussing three of the toughest challenges PR pros face. She lists battling stereotypes, getting heard and everyone thinking they know everything as her biggest hurdles—for the most part I agree, but for different reasons.

Ms. Kennedy says PR pros are seen as manipulators and the stereotype still exists that we want to trick people into buying stuff they don’t need.  I see tricking people into buying things as more advertising-related than PR-related—and in the advertising world that stereotype is well earned!

The stereotype I run across most often as a PR pro is the belief that we “spin” the truth to be advantageous to our clients. While clearly the degree of spin determines the integrity of our messages, and some spin is on the edge of being untruthful, I think most PR pros believe in their clients and want to help promote awareness of products that are truly good for customers. Yes, there are different ways to say things and messages can be manipulated to appeal to different audiences, but is that a negative, or simply highlighting what will be most interesting and meaningful to a particular audience? (How’s that for spin!)

The second challenge Ms. Kennedy addresses is getting heard. I wholeheartedly agree with her that there are an overwhelming number of options today for getting our news out, as opposed to the limited options pre-Web2.0. 

While it certainly takes diligence to make sure we cover all the possibilities for getting heard, and we’re likely to miss opportunities here and there, the exciting thing is that we haven’t failed if we miss one opportunity, because there are so many others to take up the slack, and if one opportunity doesn’t work, another almost always does. We are no longer at the mercy of a select few editors of print publications—anyone can publish a blog or even send out a tweet and be found through common search channels if he/she knows how to use keywords, SEO and hashtags. So even a single article from a blogger can result in new business for a client.

The third challenge Ms. Kennedy discusses is that everyone thinks they know everything about PR. I guess I have been lucky over my career, and am especially lucky with my clients at DJA. I rarely come across a client who tries to tell me how to do my job—and the few who do actually know what they are talking about. 

I’ll add a fourth challenge here, though—clients who don’t understand how PR works and expect that if they are paying for professional services they should make the front page of the Wall Street Journal with every press release they send out.

There are different kinds of news that are effective for different strategies and tactics. Just because our client’s news isn’t big enough to make the Wall Street Journal doesn’t mean that an article in a core industry magazine or even a simple blog post on the company’s website won’t garner some new business, position the client as a thought leader with customers or intimidate the competition. PR professionals do much more than get clients news coverage. They help evaluate each piece of news, each activity, each business accomplishment and promote it in the best place and in the best way to achieve a positive result.

What other PR challenges have you encountered in your career? I’d love to hear of others I haven’t mentioned.